Peter Morgan’s The Audience may be a retrospective, but it also boasts several witty up-to-the-minute additions, from the Pope’s defection to the grim march to world domination of the irrepressible ‘Gangnam Style’.
Notably absent is any reaction to Hilary Mantel’s much-debated views on royal women, but her observation that we make them superhuman, yet treat them as less than human, is actually an interesting reading of Morgan’s play.
The Audience is a dazzlingly witty series of sketches, brought to life by a note-perfect cast (bar Haydn Gwynne being approximately 2ft too tall for Thatcher), but its lack of dramatic through-line and/or gripping central premise means it entertains, but never truly moves.
Her Maj’s conversations with her younger self reveal her reservations about her role, and we do see her struggling with her early prime ministerial charges’ paternalism, but Morgan seems happier painting her as a combination of Dorothy Parker, Dr Jennifer Melfi and Miss Marple than grappling with the agony of a life unlived and dreams sacrificed for duty.
The Queen helped reverse a growing tide of republican feeling, which seems unlikely to surface again while the media lavish attention on the photogenic royal parents-to-be, but what The Audience hints at, and Mantel articulated more bluntly, is that the kindest, most human thing we could do for royals may not be propping up the institution, but setting them free.
Do you agree, or do you think we’d be lost without them? Cast your vote!